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Trump Ridicules Navy SEAL Commander Who Oversaw Bin Laden Raid; Students and Teachers Escaped Fire on School Bus; More Than 1,200 People Still Missing from Deadly Fire Zone; Bill Nelson Concedes Florida Senate Race to Rick Scott; Nancy Pelosi Fighting to Return as House Speaker; The Furry Life; Hospital Staff, Patients Fled Fires in Devastated Town; Aired 8-9p ET
Aired November 18, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[20:00:02] CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: McRaven. Retired admiral. Navy SEAL. 37 years. Former head of U.S. Special Operations.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hillary Clinton fan.
WALLACE: Special operations --
TRUMP: Excuse me, Hillary Clinton fan.
WALLACE: -- who led the operations, commanded the operations that took down Saddam Hussein and that killed Osama bin Laden says that your sentiment is the greatest threat to democracy in his lifetime.
TRUMP: He's a Hillary Clinton backer and an Obama backer. And frankly --
WALLACE: He was a Navy SEAL 37 --
TRUMP: Wouldn't it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: McRaven has been an outspoken critic of Trump. He wrote a stunning rebuke in August saying Trump had embarrassed and humiliated the U.S. and back in February of last year he called Trump's attacks against the media, quote, "The greatest threat to democracy. "
McRaven is now responding to the president's latest comments. He tells CNN, quote, "I did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else. I am a fan of President Obama and President George W. Bush, both of whom I worked for. I admire all presidents regardless of their political party who uphold the dignity of the office and who use that office to bring the nation together in challenging times.
"I stand by my comment that the president's attack on the media is the greatest threat to our democracy in my lifetime. When you undermine the people's right to a free press and freedom of speech and expression, then you threaten the Constitution and all for which it stands."
CNN's Boris Sanchez is at the White House for us tonight.
Boris, defenders are going to say the president is simply hitting back, but this isn't the first time the president has had a controversy with a military member.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana. The president consistently fighting back on any criticism, whether coming from a member of the military or even military families. It's something that his supporters enjoy thoroughly that the president fights back whenever he feels he's been attacked, though it's led to a number of awkward moments with military members and their families.
Here's this list. You'll recall, back in 2016 the president drew criticism, or I should say 2015, he drew criticism when he said that Senator John McCain wasn't a war hero because he was trapped by the Vietnamese. Then you'll recall that in 2016 during the presidential campaign he attacked the Khan family, that Gold Star family which spoke out at the Democratic National Convention.
He also had a spat with a Gold Star family as president, the family of Sergeant La David Johnson who disputed some of what President Trump said that he talked about with Johnson's widow in a phone call.
We should also point out President Trump has never actually visited troops in war zones, something that he was criticized for this week. He's promised he will do that, but it is notable that the president hasn't done so yet. It's considered one of the basic requirements for being commander-in-chief, and this week the president also drew criticism because he didn't visit Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day.
The president told FOX News that is something he regrets. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I should have done that. I was extremely busy on calls for the country. We did a lot of calling, as you know.
WALLACE: But this is Veterans Day.
TRUMP: I probably, you know, in retrospect I should have and I did last year and I will virtually every year, but we had come in very late at night and I had just left literally the American cemetery in Paris, and I really probably assumed that was fine and I was extremely busy because of affairs of state, doing other things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Now, Ana, defenders of the president will say that few presidents have done more to supply arms and to support members of the Armed Services, whether they are in war zones or on their way back -- Ana.
CABRERA: All right. Boris Sanchez at the White House, thanks.
I want to open up this discussion and with us CNN political analyst David Drucker, he's also senior political correspondent for "The Washington Examiner." CNN military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, and CNN military analyst, retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton.
Admiral, I'll start with you because you were at the Pentagon when bin Laden was captured. What do you make of the president's remarks?
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes, I was a little surprise by that. I mean, look, there's a lot of planning and effort that went into getting bin Laden. And of course that mission was anything but easy. It was very, very risky, and we actually lost a helicopter in the midst of it. I mean, it was very dangerous.
But it's not like we ever took our eyes off of bin Laden and weren't trying to get him since 9/11. I mean, he was just very evasive and was able to elude capture or killing, but it was a lot of effort that went into that. So I was a little bit alarmed by that. It doesn't comport with my sense of the history of how hard it was and how long the effort was to get bin Laden.
CABRERA: Colonel, in the aftermath of 9/11, I know you collected intel on bin Laden. When the president says he should have been caught sooner, do you take that personally?
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: In a way I do because one of the big things, Ana, that happened was that the main source that we had about bin Laden's whereabouts was compromised and it was compromised in several outlets to include the president's favorite news network, FOX News.
[20:05:14] So you have a situation where the information that we were dealing with was very perishable. The types of things that we did required bin Laden to be in certain places in order for us to go after him. We could have potentially gotten him as early as 2001, but because the intelligence that we had was so perishable we lost him and it took until 2011 before we actually got him.
CABRERA: David, does the president understand that when he makes comments, even if he's punching back to somebody like McRaven who's been critical of him, that he may be offending these other people who aren't McRaven who have served this country in the Armed Forces?
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, look, I mean, it's never quite clear what's going on in the president's head but I think what we know from watching him as a candidate and as president is that he doesn't seem to appreciate or be too concerned about the weight of his remarks because he is president of the United States. And so normal people might say, you know, something about somebody they don't like or something the government did that they weren't happy with, but the president of the United States because of who he is, it means that people around the world are watching what he says and they may use it to their own advantage, try to use it to their own advantage, and when they see that the president criticizing military or criticizing the press, it's not so much that the rest us can't take it.
I mean, look, military veterans are tough people. That's why they do what they are table do what they do, but I think there's a question of whether or not the president appreciates the weight that his remarks carry and I don't think he's all that concerned. I think what we've learned is that when the president feels attacked, he doesn't care if it's a Gold Star family who lost a son or daughter fighting in a war. He doesn't care if it's a commander who served for decades in harm's way. All the president cares about is that he was attacked.
The interesting thing I would just say as an observer on the McRaven issue and the criticism is that, look, as president and all presidents before him, he can be critical with his predecessors. Maybe he doesn't believe they moved against bin Laden soon enough. Maybe he doesn't believe that they prioritized him enough, maybe they don't believe that the intelligence community did a good enough job in locating him sooner and that's all fair game for politicians.
I mean, that's why the American people often elect new politicians because they are not happy with the decisions the last ones made. Bill McRaven and the SEALs, when they were given a mission they executed it. They weren't politicians, they weren't policy-makers, they were executers. They did their job. So it was interesting the way he went after McRaven --
DRUCKER: -- for not, you know, getting bin Laden sooner as opposed to going after Obama or George W. Bush for not getting bin Laden sooner which I think may have been fair game to do had he done that.
CABRERA: Bill McRaven has been political. He's been very critical of this president publicly. Here's part of the searing op-ed he wrote in August. He writes, "Through your actions," about the president, "you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and worst of all divided us as a nation. If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are mistaken."
Colonel, has McRaven crossed any lines here?
LEIGHTON: Well, remember, he is a retired military officer now and as such he has the freedom to express himself just like anybody else does, so I don't think he did, and the reason I think he's OK is that the way in which he expressed himself had to do with his experience. It had to do with what he has seen. We also shouldn't forget that McRaven was a journalism major when he was an undergraduate at the University of Texas, so he knew not only what he did but he also understands what journalism is all about and that's a very unique perspective.
CABRERA: Admiral, we also heard President Trump express that he should have gone to Arlington National Cemetery to mark Veterans Day this past Monday. This is a president who really doesn't apologize, who rarely admits that he was wrong now expressing regret.
Were you surprised to hear him be reflective there?
KIRBY: I was actually heartened by it. I was glad to see that he recognized that it was a mistake and I don't suspect it's a mistake he'll make again. And look, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, honoring the troops in that way is one of the -- is one of the hardest things for a president to screw up because it's -- I mean, it's just an expression of thanks and gratitude, so I'm glad to see that he's taken mind of his mistake and that he'll rectify it going forward but I'll be honest with you.
Ana, I mean, I'm conflicted about this because every time he seems to be around the troops or around military events, he tends to politicize it, and inject partisan politics into it.
[20:10:01] So there was a little part of me that well, I was certainly disappointed he didn't go and I believe that he should have and I'm glad he does now, too. There's a little part of me that actually was kind of glad because every time he gets around the troops he tends to treat us like we are a voting bloc, like we are an extension of the Republican Party and that the military institution has to stay apolitical. And I just wish that when he did do things with us or around us he would keep the politics out of it.
CABRERA: I want you all to listen to what the president said just last week when he was asked about former first lady Michelle Obama saying she could never forgive this president for the birther claim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I guess she wrote a book. She got paid a lot of money to write a book, and they always insist that you come up with controversial. Well, I'll give you a little controversy back. I'll never forgive him for what he did to our United States Military by not funding it properly. It was depleted. Everything was old and tired, and I came in and I had to fix it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So, David, I mean the president likes to really tout how much he is about the military so then when things like today happen does it work against him?
DRUCKER: Well, look, I think that there are two parts to leadership and the president, you could argue if you believe in his policies in terms of his funding of the military, and he has upped funding for the military, and he's received a lot of support from within the military for sort of unleashing this idea, that look, if I give you a mission just win, and I'm not going to put constraints on you.
There's a policy aspect to being a leader, but there's also a rhetorical aspect to being a leader. How you talk and what you say is just as important as what you do and when you do it, and I think that the president, while there are disagreements that we can have on policy, you could argue maybe getting the policy right. May have made some corrections from the previous administration that is putting the military on more solid footing. But when it comes to the leadership aspect, the rhetoric, the kind of
thing that can either inspire or deflate a nation, that can signal to authoritarians around the world, dictators around the world, that we're either against you or we're watching or we don't actually care what you do, these are the kinds of things I think the president has to work on to be a more fulsome leader and to be more effective at the job he is doing.
Look, we saw from the midterm elections the country remains divided and so even though the president isn't totally responsible for all of that because a lot of us have a lot of responsibility in that and the country just is where it is, there's a lot more that he could be doing and there's a lot more that he could be doing internationally, too, to sort of establish the United States as an influential power.
We remain an influential power but with a lacking of rhetoric it's the kind of thing that sometimes has leaders around the world wondering if we're still going to be around and if they can still depend on us, and that will have an impact on whether or not we have to use the military that he's trying to build up so I think all of these things matter.
CABRERA: Yes. There is only one commander-in-chief, only one president of the United States.
Thank you so much, David Drucker. Admiral John Kirby, Colonel Cedric Leighton, thank you, both as well. And thank you for your service to this country. And we appreciate it very much.
Now to our other top story, the wildfires raging in California. Imagine driving five hours in a school bus through flames like this. With two dozen people praying they make it out alive. Details on their story coming up live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[20:17:36] CABRERA: Firefighters in California are not only battling flames but also high winds and dry air. Everything, it seems, is working against them. Several separate massive wildfires are still burning this week and none of them fully contained. People in towns north of Sacramento are beginning to return now to the remains of their homes, salvaging what they can from the ashes.
CNN's Paul Vercammen is in Chico, California, and, Paul, you've been speaking with some of the evacuees and you're hearing some incredible stories about how they escaped.
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Phenomenal stories and perhaps one of the most interesting was about the school bus, bus number 963. It was shortly after 8:30 in the morning when it became clear for everyone involved that flames were going to burn part of an elementary school.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a bus driver from heaven.
KEVIN MCKAY, SCHOOL BUS DRIVER: Good to see you.
VERCAMMEN (voice-over): As the Camp Fire raged, Kevin McKay, a few months into his job for the Paradise School District, braced for the bus drive of his life and the lives of two dozen others.
MCKAY: Well, it was time to go.
VERCAMMEN: Stranded children and two teachers jumped on.
MARY LUDWIG, TEACHER: There were 22 kids and my first thought was just getting them on the bus and getting them out of there because the sky was really menacing.
CHARLOTTE MERZ, 4TH GRADE STUDENT: It was so crazy. And there were like fires left and right everywhere you looked. There was like smoke everywhere and people trying to get out and it was like really hard.
VERCAMMEN (on camera): Were you scared?
MERZ: Very scared but I tried to just like calm down because that would just make it worse for everybody else.
MCKAY: We started getting fire on both sides of the bus. Kids starting to get pretty antsy. At a couple of points I think that, you know, we had some honest discussions about, is this the time to get out of the bus?
VERCAMMEN (voice-over): Smoke seeped into the bus, children started inhaling and falling asleep.
ABBIE DAVIS, TEACHER: I ran to the front of the bus and I said, Kevin these kids are telling me they are tired right now. And Kevin, without everybody thinking about it, took his shirt off and tore it into little pieces and -- yes, and Mary started -- we just started tearing it as quickly as we could to make filters for these kids to breathe.
VERCAMMEN: They dipped the rags in water. The harrowing truck continued. McKay drove in the middle of the road to avoid burning trees and buildings.
[20:20:05] (On camera): Coming down the hill the sky becomes lighter, the tension eases, the adults intentionally make some light comments about having pancakes and a black bear surviving at a Black Bear Diner.
MERZ: It was great. I mean, after all that tenseness really needed a joke to just loosen everything up.
VERCAMMEN (voice-over): Then back between walls of fire.
MERZ: When we turned the corner, there we were back again. And it was awful. I just felt like this was never going to end.
DAVIS: Just being gridlock trapped in the road. There was nowhere for us to go, the traffic wasn't moving. And then our last stretch, too, I think that was the -- that was the moment I thought that we might not make it out.
VERCAMMEN: Abbie's home burned so did Charlotte's and Kevin's, Mary's still stands, homes were lost but in the end, everyone on the bus survived.
MCKAY: Safety is such an important part of a bus driver's role. And you know, I must have paid close attention.
VERCAMMEN: A reference to the class he took on how to keep his precious passengers safe.
VERCAMMEN: And they even picked up another passenger along the way, a young woman. She was a teacher at another school -- Ana.
CABRERA: Incredible story. Paul Vercammen in Chico, California. Thank you so much.
Now the most heartbreaking news from this statewide disaster is the number of people confirmed dead and those whose families just don't know where their loved ones are.
Kelly Huston, the deputy director of the California Office of Emergency Services is joining us now.
Kelly, a sheriff in that fire zone has told us more than 1200 people are still unaccounted for. How is it that this number of missing people is going up rather than down?
KELLY HUSTON, CALIFORNIA OFFICE OF EMERGENCY SERVICES: Yes. So the sheriff of Butte County has been doing -- he and his team are doing his best to try to account for people that are missing, but if you can imagine there's still over 52,000 people under mandatory evacuations. You've got people spread all over the place and he's having to try to reconcile very carefully the number of people reported missing with the American Red Cross numbers for people in shelters, and just all of the other sources where information about somebody who is either unaccounted for or missing would be, and then you've got to be real careful about it because you don't want to be claiming facts that they can't verify so it's a very methodical process and that number will change.
CABRERA: I mean, it's so important, like you said, to make sure we have the accurate information, but you see the death toll continuing to climb, and you hear that the number of missing are above a thousand. How optimistic are you that this people is still alive?
HUSTON: There's a lot of hope. You know, we know that there's less than 100 that have perished in the fire and that number has been climbing a little slower than perhaps some have it expected which is a good sign and then we're just telling people that are in the shelters or in an evacuated that please be patient because we want to make sure that we're assisting the sheriff and getting all of the potential remains or that the animals and other things identified very carefully, so that we can whittle down and help the sheriff get that number down to something less than what it is now, but this is a long process. This isn't something that they can do real quickly.
CABRERA: I can't imagine what it's like for you, for everybody in the communities there. You've said this fire disaster is beyond one of the worst disaster recoveries you thought your state would be faced with. How is everybody coping? How are your people responding?
HUSTON: Well, unfortunately or fortunately however we look at it, we've gone through this. This is a broken record. We went through this back in October of last year. This just happens to be four times as large, twice as many homes destroyed, and so there's a lot of people behind me working on different task forces to look at long-term housing, taking care of people in shelters. People are working long hours and a lot of people here know how important it is that we're doing everything we can to take care of the folks that were affected by this.
CABRERA: It sounds like there's just not enough shelter right now. You have thousands of people displaced by these fires and we're seeing makeshift tent cities popping up. Are there concerns now about sanitation safety?
HUSTON: There actually is enough shelter space. There's 10 shelters open and a lot of capacity. The problem is that folks that are comfortable now in the parking lot are not wanting to move and we're offering them transportation and encouraging them to go to a brick and mortar shelter where when the rains come they'll be out of the rain. And that's the challenge right now is telling people you really should get to one of the shelters that we have available.
We have the space. It's just convincing them that moving is in their best interest and that's what folks on the ground are doing tent by tent and person by person saying you need to be moving to a real shelter so we can give you all the services that we can provide.
CABRERA: I'm happy to hear that there's still space.
[20:25:01] Thank you for helping to get the message out. Thank you for giving us some information to share with our viewers and these residents hopefully who are still trying to figure out what to make of all of this.
Kelly Huston in Sacramento, we apologize for everything your community is enduring and thank you for the hard work you're doing there.
HUSTON: Thank you.
CABRERA: Votes are still being counted in some of the midterm races in California, but in Florida, the recount just ended today in a very tight race for the Senate. We'll take you live to Tallahassee just ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[20:30:03] CABRERA: A closely watched Senate race that has been undecided since Election Day is now over and it's a big win for Republicans. Rick Scott has defeated Democratic incumbent Senator Bill Nelson in Florida. This after a manual recount ended today. Senator Nelson conceded defeat and released a recorded statement slamming the current political climate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: We have to move beyond the politics that aims not just to defeat but to destroy, where truth is treated as disposable. Where falsehoods abound and that the free press is assaulted as the enemy of the people. There's been a gathering darkness in our politics in recent years. My hope today can be found in the words of John F. Kennedy who said civility can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Let's go live to CNN's Ryan Nobles in Tallahassee.
Ryan, after all the drama, Rick Scott never lost his lead even though it was always razor thin.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. If you remember what election night was like here in Florida, Ana. Rick Scott felt that he had been able to declare victory, the margin was more than 50,000 votes but by each passing day that margin shrunk and shrunk and shrunk until the initial count was in and then it hovered around 12,000 votes and that's what triggered this lengthy recount process.
Two separate recounts that after that initial count really only reduced the margin by another 2,000 votes and ultimately Rick Scott won by 10,000 votes which is pretty small in the grand context of 8.5 million votes. And we know that today Bill Nelson in addition to releasing that statement which we just shared he also called Rick Scott to personally concede to him and wish him well in his new position.
Rick Scott did put out a statement later in the day. He thanked Bill Nelson for his lengthy career in public service in Florida and he also said this, quote, we must do what Americans have always done, come together for the good of our state and our country. I know change is never popular in Washington and I'm just one person and we have to start somewhere.
And Ana, we have heard differently a shift in tone among the players in these two highly contentious election to both governor and senator, everyone talking about coming together for the good of the people of Florida. Much different than what they were saying over this very difficult recount process where there were a lot of accusations and insults flying. I'm sure the people of Florida hope that this tone is simply that's going to last for some time.
CABRERA: And I'm sure the Florida elections folks are perhaps reflecting on what they might be able to do better next time around because the next election is just a couple of years away.
Ryan, Senator Nelson's Republican colleague Marco Rubio had some really nice words about him today. Tell us about that.
NOBLES: Yes, you know, and Ana, I think this was one of the underreported aspects about this race in that Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio have an excellent working relationship. They both talk about how fond they are of each other and even though they come from separate parties, that they were always able to find ways to work together. And it was interesting during the campaign you did not see Marco Rubio campaigning all that much with Rick Scott.
He held one private fundraiser for him, did not hold any rallies and wasn't knocking on doors on behalf of Rick Scott and that's in part because of how close he was with Bill Nelson. And the statement he put out today was just glowing, said that he considers Bill Nelson a friend, that they had a terrific working relationship and he ended by saying that he will miss working with him.
Now that being said, Marco Rubio has also had some good things to say about Rick Scott in the wake of his victory. The two expect to be partners in Washington when Rick Scott ultimately gets there, but, you know, for a race that was so contentious and so uncivil for the majority of it, it's nice to see at the end of all of this, that these men who worked hard on behalf of their constituents in Florida have civil words to say about each other -- Ana.
CABRERA: All right, Ryan Nobles, stellar job, my friend, reporting from Tallahassee the last couple of weeks. I know your kiddos are going to be welcoming you home with a big old hug in the next 24 hours. Thank you.
President Donald Trump and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi agree on one thing at least. They both want her to reclaim the job as speaker of the House but some Democrats are standing in her way. We'll lay out the obstacles to the top post ahead live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[20:39:00] CABRERA: Nancy Pelosi now fighting to return as House speaker, but some Democrats want a fresh face leading the House when they take control in January. Pelosi was the first woman to hold the gavel in the House serving as speaker from 2007 to 2011, now she's fending off potential challenges and trying to sway at least 17 Democrats who have publicly vowed not to support Pelosi in next week's vote.
One thing Nancy Pelosi does not want, any help from President Trump and whatever his motives may be, President Trump is offering to lend Pelosi a helping hand. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I would help Nancy Pelosi if she needs some votes. She may need some votes. I will perform a wonderful service for her. I like her. Can you believe it? I like Nancy Pelosi. I mean, she's tough and she's smart, but she deserves to be speaker, and now they are playing games with her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Here's CNN's Tom Foreman with the different scenarios and challenges Pelosi may be facing in the run-up to next week's vote for House speaker.
[20:40:02] TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For congressional Democrats, Nancy Pelosi has been a huge power player for more than 15 years in the House of Representatives. Just look at some of the positions of leadership she has held, and in those positions, she has wrangled votes for a lot of issues Democrats really care about. Health care reform. Credit card and banking regulations, tobacco regulations, the Fair Pay Act, food safety and much more.
She's also brought in a ton of money for her party. This is reportedly her haul for the party just for the midterm elections, all of which is why her supporters say yes, she's the natural leader, make her the speaker again.
But there is opposition in her own party. And here's some of their concern. First of all, they say she is a lightning rod for Republicans, her district near San Francisco is much more liberal than the rest of the country. On top of which they say she's simply too much about the past, about old grudges, old ideas, old coalitions, and they say there were plenty of other Democrats out there who could maybe bring in new ideas if she simply would step aside.
Now right now the people who are trying to oppose her in her own party do not have enough votes to stop her from being chosen as the party's candidate for the speaker. They have their own vote first, she would easily win that. But when it comes out here onto the general floor, for the general vote, where Republicans get to play it, too, if 17, 18, 19 of these opposition forces in her own party say they would absolutely not vote for her, that could keep her from getting the majority she needs and that could force either concessions from her or possibly an entirely different pick for the Democratic Party.
CABRERA: Our thanks to Tom Foreman for that report.
The destruction is unimaginable and wildfires are still burning across California. Ahead, how one hospital raced to keep patients safe as the inferno raged around them.
[20:46:28] CABRERA: Crippling stress and anxiety impact some people so much they have trouble just leaving the house to go grocery shopping, to work, or even just living near other people. In this week's episode of "THIS IS LIFE" Lisa Ling meets members of the furry community, people who create animal alter egos, often to help them deal with debilitating mental health and medical challenges. Here's a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just stabilize me here.
LISA LING, CNN HOST, "THIS IS LIFE": The moment Lindsay puts on that suit, the shaking stops and Lailya comes alive.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I first imagined this character, I imagined her just like me, so kind of shy and withdrawn. But it was very quickly that I realized the costume had a life of its own. The shyness was just gone.
LING: Twice a month, Josh and Lindsay hop in the car and head to one of her charity events.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just get super excited every time I put it on. I'm going to go out there and perform and make people happy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were like what's going on? There's a giant dog driving around.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: What is going on? A great question for us to ask Lisa Ling, the host of 'THIS IS LIFE."
Lisa, good to have you with us. I'm intrigued to say the least. Explain how this works. How being a so-called furry helps some people deal with their mental or physical challenges?
LING: Well, Ana, we saved a very, very special episode for our last one of the season and to be honest with you over the years we have gotten e-mails saying you should explore the furry fandom and sincerely I just kind of discounted them because I just thought, it's kind of weird. I don't know if we want to go there because we do death film stories, right? But the more we start to look into it we started to realize that the furry phantom, which is massive and is global, is really this incredible kind of escape for people.
The clip that you just aired, a woman named Lindsay who literally, Ana, could not stop shaking as I was talking to her and she has suffered from severe social anxiety all of her life, and the moment she puts on that costume, a dog that she's created named Lailya she just came alive, and you know, there's a reason why people are flocking to comic-cons and to like "Star Trek" conventions because they want to escape from the daily realities. With the furry community they actually create these characters themselves. So it's incredibly creative community and we also met a man who suffers from extreme PTSD, so much so that he's isolated himself from society.
He lives in this cabin in the middle of Oregon, but once he puts on his costume, he becomes this animated character, and he really thinks that this character is going to help him be able to better integrate himself into society more.
CABRERA: So interesting. I mean the little preview we just showed and the promos we've been seeing here on CNN really tells the story about how people are able to release their inhibitions and I'm guessing that the one promo we've seen comes from this furry convention that you attended in Seattle. I'm curious what that was like to be in the middle of it and also to watch different people interact with each other.
[20:50:03] LING: Well, if people trust us to tell good stories and I think over the years people have come to have faith that we do so, I hope you'll come along on this journey with us. It was very surreal to be in this hotel that the furries took over and to have these adults dressed in costumes, in furry costumes in dog and different endomorphic characters, walking around the hotels, in the elevators, going up the escalators.
But it was just a really incredible experience because so many of these people, again, like were suffering with these social anxieties and I think we all remember as kids those moments when we first came into contact with Mickey Mouse or these animal characters. The kind of joy and innocent joy that it brought us. Well, these people say that that's the kind of happiness they like to bring to other people. And in many ways, they never sort of grew out of that kind of fascination and desire to, you know, be exposed and have those feelings.
CABRERA: Our thanks to Lisa Ling. You can see more of her fascinating report on "THIS IS LIFE." Furry nation tonight at 10:00 right here on CNN. We'll be right back.
[20:55:46] CABRERA: All weekend we have been updating you as we get information on the deadliest wildfire disaster in California history. 79 people confirmed dead, more than 1200 others are not accounted for. And we are hearing so many stories from people who lost everything in these wildfires. People who now say they are just lucky to be alive.
Listen to this. It is how the staff at a hospital in the middle of these fires jumped into action to save their patients.
JOE KHALIL, KTXL REPORTER: Six-day-old Hallie (PH) is the last baby born at Feather River Hospital. Just moments after she arrived, the Camp Fire began to surround the building.
HEATHER ROEBUCK, CAMP FIRE EVACUEE: It came over the speaker, evacuate the hospital. All patients need to be moved.
TAMARA FERGUSON, NURSE, FEATHER RIVER HOSPITAL: I went to my patient's rooms and I said, just grab your baby. We got to go. Just grab your baby. There is no time.
KHALIL: In the scramble to evacuate, Halle's (PH) mother, Heather, had been separated from her child, put into an ambulance and driven away. Her ambulance made it about half a mile before it began to literally melt in the flames. Her C-section surgery left her lower half of her body numb. She couldn't move and made what she thought would be her last phone call.
ROEBUCK: I said goodbye to my husband and just told him to tell our kids that I loved them and that I was sorry. I was sorry I wouldn't be there. It was very, very hard.
FERGUSON: And I heard the ambulance in front of us is on fire.
KHALIL: Nurse Tamara Ferguson was in an ambulance behind Heather's, making the same last phone call to her family.
FERGUSON: They kept telling me, like, no, you're going to be fine. And I kept trying to convince them, no, you don't understand. I'm not going to be fine. There is no way I am going to survive this. There is fire blowing at me.
KHALIL: As the fire was consuming homes all around them, a stranger helped Heather get out of her ambulance and wheeled her up this driveway, on Chloe Court. Nurse Tamara followed. Eventually they ran into David Hawks, Paradise's fire chief.
CHIEF DAVID HAWKS, PARADISE, CALIFORNIA FIRE DEPARTMENT: And there is a dog door here that one of the paramedics made access to. We unlocked the garage, moved patients into this home and sheltered them in place. I said, hey, if you -- if you follow directions which is to clear this home of pine needles, that we would be safe here.
KHALIL: What happened next was nothing short of amazing. EMTs and nurses became stand-in firefighters. Some getting on the roof of this home clearing gutters of brush, hosing down the outer edge of the property, saving this home all while their patients were kept safe inside.
FERGUSON: And he said, you do this, you do this, you do this. And all of us shifted our minds to what do we need to do for survival mode here.
HAWKS: They followed directions, they did exactly what I asked them to do.
KHALIL: Amid a neighborhood devastated by the Camp Fire, this Chloe Court home survived, so did all of the patients and medical staff inside.
DESIREE BORDEN, EVACUATED FROM PARADISE, CALIFORNIA: I am so happy that that my home was spared so that their lives could be spared. That was that home's purpose, was to save those people.
KHALIL: Desiree Borden owns this home with her husband. Not long before it was used to save lives of people she had never met, she was fleeing from it with her 17-month-old daughter in the car.
BORDEN: I was singing nursery rhymes to her, trying to keep her calm, although she was very calm. I don't know if I was singing the nursery rhymes for her or for me. I just knew that our story couldn't end that way. We couldn't burn alive in a car.
KHALIL: It wasn't until one of the nurses sent Desiree a Facebook message that she learned her home was still standing. She'd assumed like her neighbor's homes, it was gone.
Now these people, all strangers a few days ago, forever bonded through one common story of survival.
FERGUSON: We are all here. We are able to talk about this and it's absolutely extraordinary.
BORDEN: It's humbling to know that your life was spared when so many aren't and so many are unaccounted for.
CABRERA: Blessings to those people. And thanks to Joe Khalil with CNN affiliate KTXL for that report.
That does it for me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for spending part of your Sunday with me. I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. I'll see you back here next weekend.
Up next, it's "ANTHONY BOURDAIN, PARTS UNKNOWN." Good night.